Is This Shelby Cobra’s Polished Copper Body Unique or Just Weird?

Colin
By Colin Wood
Mar 8, 2021 | Shelby, Cobra

When’s the last time you saw a metal-bodied Shelby Cobra, let alone one finished in polished copper?

Such is the case for CSX 4602. Part of the 4000-series Cobras that are, essentially, continuation models built almost identically to the way the original Cobras were built back in ‘60s, this one had its body hand-built by Kirkham Motorsports—an option for customers who wanted to make their Shelby Cobra that much more exclusive.

Normally, the folks at Kirkham would use aluminum, but the person who originally bought CSX 4602 asked for the car to be bodied in polished copper.

As far as the iconic stripes, they are achieved by brushing—instead of polishing—the copper in those spots, and underneath the Shelby’s hood lies a 427 FE V8 powerplant rated for 550 horsepower.

You can read more about this Shelby Cobra that’s actually for sale over through RM Sotheby's over on Classic Motorsports, and let us know what you think of its unique copper body in the comments below.

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Comments
View comments on the GRM forums
David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/5/21 9:38 a.m.

Even though I'm the one who suggested the piece, I'm still on the fence. Like, honestly, the modern oil filter bugs me the most. 

Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter)
Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter) SuperDork
3/5/21 9:41 a.m.

Can it breathe through the miniscule air filter was my first thought. I have seen enough wraps that a full copper body looks cool but it's almost passed off as not real off the cuff.

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/5/21 9:42 a.m.

It's forking awesome. 

And I'll bet the electrical system has no issue with grounds. 

NermalSnert (Forum Supporter)
NermalSnert (Forum Supporter) Reader
3/5/21 9:44 a.m.

Tarnish keeps coming to mind. :)

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
3/5/21 9:45 a.m.

I've seen this done a lot in video games, but not in real life. I'm all for it.

That is awesome! Copper is probably my favorite metal from a looks standpoint. 

Antihero (Forum Supporter)
Antihero (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
3/5/21 10:15 a.m.
NermalSnert (Forum Supporter) said:

Tarnish keeps coming to mind. :)

That could actually be even cooler depending

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa UltraDork
3/5/21 10:24 a.m.

I absolutely love it, but I can't think of any place where you could drive it.  The second it comes into contact with any salt at all, it'll start to green.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/5/21 10:30 a.m.

Is it actual copper, or is it that electro-painting metallic stuff?  What do they call it... spectrachrome?

Vajingo
Vajingo Reader
3/5/21 10:32 a.m.

I would've done a matte finish on the copper with polish stripes. Copper looks it's best when it's almost bronze

SVreX (Forum Supporter)
SVreX (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/5/21 10:34 a.m.

It's gorgeous.

But I was an art major, so I'm pretty sure my opinion shouldn't count.

Would you like fries with that?

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/5/21 10:37 a.m.
Paul_VR6 (Forum Supporter) said:

Can it breathe through the miniscule air filter was my first thought. I have seen enough wraps that a full copper body looks cool but it's almost passed off as not real off the cuff.

We had a Cobra replica on our dyno once. Took off the air filter and got 40 hp.

To answer the question posed by the headline - it can be both unique and weird. It's an art piece.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/5/21 10:38 a.m.

In reply to SVreX (Forum Supporter) :

I agree.  Gorgeous.  I did some underhood plumbing once with copper as a neat accent.  It lasted about 6 days before it looked like crap.

ShawnG
ShawnG UltimaDork
3/5/21 10:45 a.m.

It's great until you have to take care of it.

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/5/21 10:46 a.m.

I wonder if you could clearcoat it to keep the look but not have to worry about it turning green?

 

tuna55
tuna55 MegaDork
3/5/21 10:50 a.m.

I love the copper.

 

I dislike the air filter.

66polara
66polara
3/5/21 10:57 a.m.

Anyone want to bet it was built for the same guy who had the Copper Caddy built by Dave Kindig? 

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/5/21 11:09 a.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:

I wonder if you could clearcoat it to keep the look but not have to worry about it turning green?

 

Would wax help preserve the finish? 

noddaz
noddaz UltraDork
3/5/21 11:11 a.m.

I like weird automotive things, but I don't care for that.  

NickD
NickD MegaDork
3/5/21 11:14 a.m.
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) said:

Is it actual copper, or is it that electro-painting metallic stuff?  What do they call it... spectrachrome?

It's genuine copper. And I remember reading that they needed special copper with some sort of ultra-low oxygen content or something and the only way to get it was in an absurdly large order, like waaaay more than you needed to make a single Cobra body.

The same shop also built one with a bare polished aluminum body and a complete billet-aluminum chassis. As in the entire frame, brackets and suspension pickup points, were all hewn from a single block of billet. 

Tom1200
Tom1200 SuperDork
3/5/21 11:19 a.m.

It's both at the same time.

BFH_Garage
BFH_Garage Reader
3/5/21 11:23 a.m.

That is beautiful... love it.

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/5/21 11:32 a.m.
NickD said:
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) said:

Is it actual copper, or is it that electro-painting metallic stuff?  What do they call it... spectrachrome?

It's genuine copper. And I remember reading that they needed special copper with some sort of ultra-low oxygen content or something and the only way to get it was in an absurdly large order, like waaaay more than you needed to make a single Cobra body.

The same shop also built one with a bare polished aluminum body and a complete billet-aluminum chassis. As in the entire frame, brackets and suspension pickup points, were all hewn from a single block of billet. 

I was wondering if you could actually take regular steel panels and electro/chem-plate them with copper or similar. Actually I'm sure you can. I was actually wondering if they did that or if they handmade new pieces from solid copper. 

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/5/21 11:37 a.m.

It's beautiful, but the 17 year cicadas are coming back this summer. One drive and it would look like a golf ball. 

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/5/21 11:38 a.m.
Robbie (Forum Supporter) said:

I was wondering if you could actually take regular steel panels and electro/chem-plate them with copper or similar. Actually I'm sure you can. I was actually wondering if they did that or if they handmade new pieces from solid copper. 

Car body panels are usually made by stamping a sheet of metal in a die.  They didn't make many of the "continuation" Cobra, so it's not clear if they would have invested in that kind of tooling (the dies are very expensive to make), but if so then you can probably just use a sheet of copper in the die instead of a sheet of aluminum.  Raw material costs more, but if you can reuse the tooling then it's not that hard to do.

 

Duke
Duke MegaDork
3/5/21 11:44 a.m.

I'm in the minority, but I really don't like the polished / mirror finish cars, old or new.

 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/5/21 11:52 a.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:
Robbie (Forum Supporter) said:

I was wondering if you could actually take regular steel panels and electro/chem-plate them with copper or similar. Actually I'm sure you can. I was actually wondering if they did that or if they handmade new pieces from solid copper. 

Car body panels are usually made by stamping a sheet of metal in a die.  They didn't make many of the "continuation" Cobra, so it's not clear if they would have invested in that kind of tooling (the dies are very expensive to make), but if so then you can probably just use a sheet of copper in the die instead of a sheet of aluminum.  Raw material costs more, but if you can reuse the tooling then it's not that hard to do.

 

IIRC Kirkham has access to an ex-MiG factory in Poland for their hand-formed panels.

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia SuperDork
3/5/21 12:14 p.m.

I like it "Just because"  

I think there are some Youtube videos about the build , 

Would you like it better if it was in Magnesium ?

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
3/5/21 12:18 p.m.

In reply to californiamilleghia :

I would prefer lithium for weight savings and for smiles per gallon. 

FMB42
FMB42 New Reader
3/5/21 12:19 p.m.

A see a full sized drivable Trophy Car.

Carman944
Carman944 New Reader
3/5/21 12:42 p.m.

My question is how did they join the panels without leaving a trace?  Aluminum can be TIG welded, sanded & polished.  Metal much the same.  But copper?  Soldering or leading would leave a trace...

Inquiring minds want to know...

Unless it is "plated" as was mentioned as a possibly.

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
3/5/21 12:50 p.m.

Watch out for vandals with Brillo pads.....

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa UltraDork
3/5/21 1:04 p.m.
Carman944 said:

My question is how did they join the panels without leaving a trace?  Aluminum can be TIG welded, sanded & polished.  Metal much the same.  But copper?  Soldering or leading would leave a trace...

Inquiring minds want to know...

Unless it is "plated" as was mentioned as a possibly.

Braze it with the same material as the body panels, that way the color matches.  Then you sand it down and polish it out.

BlueInGreen - Jon (Forum Supporter)
BlueInGreen - Jon (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
3/5/21 1:18 p.m.

I think it’s cool, for something that would just be put on display to be looked at and never driven.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
3/5/21 1:41 p.m.

In reply to Carman944 :

I don't know if this helps, but here's a photo of the underside of the hood where it looks like two pieces were joined:

Placemotorsports
Placemotorsports GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
3/5/21 1:47 p.m.

My coffee mug would look good in there

 

stuart in mn
stuart in mn MegaDork
3/5/21 2:21 p.m.

Copper was probably easier to form since it's a soft metal, but then it can also work harden from vibration so I wonder if the car will develop cracks over time.

FMB42
FMB42 New Reader
3/5/21 2:59 p.m.

This is off topic a bit but back in the mid/late '70s a long time European world champion speedway motorcycle racer was awarded a gold plated Jawa 500 (IIRC). This machine was not only 'entirely' gold plated externally, but internally as well (i.e. piston, rod, crank, gears, etc). A number of big motorcycle magazines in the day had picture laden articles about it. Haven't heard anything about this machine since then, but I'm sure it's still out there somewhere.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/5/21 3:05 p.m.

I find it ironic that the body is copper, but the radiator is aluminum.

jamscal
jamscal Dork
3/5/21 3:16 p.m.

You can weld copper...no need to braze or solder.

jamscal
jamscal Dork
3/5/21 3:19 p.m.

Funny this came up as I linked this to another site yesterday:

 

http://www.kirkhammotorsports.com/book_aoe/

 

Lots of info and progress pics of a Cobra they made for Oracle's founder back in the day. 

 

(It's polished aluminum with similar sanded stripes.)

matthewmcl (Forum Supporter)
matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
3/5/21 3:19 p.m.
Mr_Asa said:
Carman944 said:

My question is how did they join the panels without leaving a trace?  Aluminum can be TIG welded, sanded & polished.  Metal much the same.  But copper?  Soldering or leading would leave a trace...

Inquiring minds want to know...

Unless it is "plated" as was mentioned as a possibly.

Braze it with the same material as the body panels, that way the color matches.  Then you sand it down and polish it out.

If you braze with the same material you are joining, you are actually welding rather than brazing. Copper will Tig weld fine. You could likely set up Mig for it, but Tig would be most likely for a one-off.

66polara said:

Anyone want to bet it was built for the same guy who had the Copper Caddy built by Dave Kindig? 

I can't believe someone else had the same thought! That episode was called "Copper, copper, copper" and aired in December 2015.

I'm just giggling at the thought of wire-stealing crackheads getting a look at this thing. 

Carman944
Carman944 New Reader
3/5/21 4:19 p.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

Aha!  I see that now.  I wasn't aware that you could TIG copper (although I don't see why you couldn't).  I'll have to give that a try.  

Learn something new every day!  Or a least try too...

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa UltraDork
3/5/21 4:24 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:

I wonder if you could clearcoat it to keep the look but not have to worry about it turning green?

 

Would wax help preserve the finish? 

Yes to both of these.  Its Bronze Disease and treating it is fairly well known due to how many brass and bronze things were made back in history.  The more chloride the copper has attracted, the worse it is, but its possible.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronze_disease

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa UltraDork
3/5/21 4:30 p.m.
matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) said:
Mr_Asa said:
Carman944 said:

My question is how did they join the panels without leaving a trace?  Aluminum can be TIG welded, sanded & polished.  Metal much the same.  But copper?  Soldering or leading would leave a trace...

Inquiring minds want to know...

Unless it is "plated" as was mentioned as a possibly.

Braze it with the same material as the body panels, that way the color matches.  Then you sand it down and polish it out.

If you braze with the same material you are joining, you are actually welding rather than brazing. Copper will Tig weld fine. You could likely set up Mig for it, but Tig would be most likely for a one-off.

Aren't there temp differences and a difference at the molecular level between the two?  Welding actually fuses the two materials, while brazing is closer to a glued joint?

dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/5/21 4:39 p.m.

Ya nope.  As art ok it is unique but you could get the same affect with copper plating. 

 

Am I the only one that is annoyed by this because everything was done to make the car as light as possible to go fast (because racecar) and then they go and put a heavy body on the car for looks or art?  The OCD engineer in me sees this and it bugs the hell out of me.

Now if some one made a polished titanium body that would be impressive.  Just trying to polish titanium is an art all its own.

wspohn
wspohn SuperDork
3/5/21 4:51 p.m.

Think I'd rather have this:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlTDZ8Sfr9M

1988RedT2
1988RedT2 MegaDork
3/5/21 5:25 p.m.

I like it.  I can't help but wonder what the body weighs and what gauge material it is.  The piece that forms the hood scoop looks very substantial.

Pure copper being softer than pure aluminum, I suspect it would gather little dents and dings like crazy.

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress Reader
3/6/21 7:54 a.m.

In reply to jamscal :

Good link!

For a while in the 90's Ellison was known for giving away a few new NSXs to friends every year.

Billionaire money is crazy.

NorseDave
NorseDave Reader
3/6/21 9:09 a.m.

Not enough steampunk for that much copper.  Granted I have no idea what a steampunk Cobra would look like, but I'm sure someone out there (that Khyzal dude for example) could have a go at it.

hybridmomentspass
hybridmomentspass Reader
3/6/21 9:44 a.m.

SEXY!

RichardSIA
RichardSIA HalfDork
3/6/21 10:32 a.m.

Another more money than brains build that cannot actually be driven for fear of a bug splatter or road grit and not being able to maintain the perfect finish. no

The stripes may actually be harder to preserve than the polish.

Clear coat tends to yellow and peel over time, just look at custom wheels. 

Recycle the body (Need the copper to support EV's!devil) and put a proper painted aluminum body on it so that it may be driven.

 The "Art" statement has been done, move on.

kb58
kb58 SuperDork
3/6/21 10:40 a.m.

Like a supermodel, it looks great... but:

1. Copper is really heavy

2. And soft

3. And corrodes/tarnishes quickly

It looks nice - especially when I know I don't have to deal with the consequences of ownership :)

Cooter
Cooter UberDork
3/6/21 11:11 a.m.
NorseDave said:

Not enough steampunk for that much copper.  Granted I have no idea what a steampunk Cobra would look like, but I'm sure someone out there (that Khyzal dude for example) could have a go at it.

Exactly my thoughts.

Should at least come with goggles and a driving suit.   Then I could daily it...

californiamilleghia
californiamilleghia SuperDork
3/6/21 11:32 a.m.

one sold at Barret Jackson 2020 for about $225K

I wonder if it was this one ?

I see they made a bronze one too !

codrus (Forum Supporter)
codrus (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/6/21 11:35 a.m.
matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) said:
Mr_Asa said:
Carman944 said:

My question is how did they join the panels without leaving a trace?  Aluminum can be TIG welded, sanded & polished.  Metal much the same.  But copper?  Soldering or leading would leave a trace...

Inquiring minds want to know...

Unless it is "plated" as was mentioned as a possibly.

Braze it with the same material as the body panels, that way the color matches.  Then you sand it down and polish it out.

If you braze with the same material you are joining, you are actually welding rather than brazing. Copper will Tig weld fine. You could likely set up Mig for it, but Tig would be most likely for a one-off.

Continuation Cobras are still body-on-frame, right?  Why do you need to weld body panels?

Kreb (Forum Supporter)
Kreb (Forum Supporter) UberDork
3/6/21 7:21 p.m.

I took a panel-beating class from a guy who had duplicated the nose of his favorite Ferrari in copper. He hung it from the wall of his shop.

I've Tig welded copper. You just cut off a very narrow strip of the panel material to use as the filler rod. Easier to weld than aluminum IMO.

They have to use a finish on it. bare copper would lose its luster in a short period of time. I use a product called Incralac which was developed by the International copper research  organization specifically for the purpose. Personally I prefer to let the metal tarnish naturally however, as then it's like wood -  different every time.

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
3/6/21 7:30 p.m.
codrus (Forum Supporter) said:
matthewmcl (Forum Supporter) said:
Mr_Asa said:
Carman944 said:

My question is how did they join the panels without leaving a trace?  Aluminum can be TIG welded, sanded & polished.  Metal much the same.  But copper?  Soldering or leading would leave a trace...

Inquiring minds want to know...

Unless it is "plated" as was mentioned as a possibly.

Braze it with the same material as the body panels, that way the color matches.  Then you sand it down and polish it out.

If you braze with the same material you are joining, you are actually welding rather than brazing. Copper will Tig weld fine. You could likely set up Mig for it, but Tig would be most likely for a one-off.

Continuation Cobras are still body-on-frame, right?  Why do you need to weld body panels?

Seams.  You can't form the front or back half out of one contiguous piece.

Well, can't is a strong word, but it would be horrifying difficult.

bmw327
bmw327 New Reader
3/8/21 1:19 p.m.

In reply to dean1484 :

You gave me a bit of a flashback with your comments regarding titanium.  At their last open house in about 1995, my dad who was a Grumman engineer from 1968-2001 showed me the equipment used to weld and machine the titanium used for the wing pivots in the F-14 in Calverton, NY.  He told me that at one time  it had been the largest facility for welding titanium in the world.  There was a finished piece nearby that looked like a single hunk of machined metal and he showed exactly where it was welded together.  I think he'd agree with your thoughts on a titanium body.

RobertHuggins
RobertHuggins
3/8/21 7:29 p.m.

Do you still call this a cobra?  Or is this a copperhead?

Beautiful!  Yes!

Practical?  Oh honey, my arthritis is painful.  I really need to buy this copper car!

dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/8/21 11:37 p.m.

In reply to RobertHuggins :

You will then have two retired football players advertising it

Stefan (Forum Supporter)
Stefan (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
3/9/21 12:02 a.m.
David S. Wallens said:

Even though I'm the one who suggested the piece, I'm still on the fence. Like, honestly, the modern oil filter bugs me the most. 

At least it wasn't an effing FRAM, POS!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/9/21 2:21 p.m.

In reply to RobertHuggins :

Didn't even think of the copperhead reference. Yeah, that would work. 

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/9/21 4:48 p.m.
David S. Wallens said:

In reply to RobertHuggins :

Didn't even think of the copperhead reference. Yeah, that would work. 

For sure! missed opportunity for the builder. 

Maybe someone needs to make a copper viper instead. What other snake cars do we have? Mustang cobra I guess, but what others?

dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/9/21 5:35 p.m.

Because I suck at Photoshop but this keeps going through my head.

 

dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
3/9/21 5:35 p.m.

The Copper fit Cobra

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/11/21 11:42 a.m.

In reply to dean1484 :

Do I get free shipping if I call right now? 

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
3/11/21 12:48 p.m.

In reply to David S. Wallens :

"But wait, there's more!

"If you order in the next 10 minutes, we'll throw in a second one at no extra cost—a $99 value for only five easy payments of $20."

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
3/11/21 2:38 p.m.

In reply to Colin Wood :

Dammit, I'm in. 

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